An occasional sampling of reader electron-mail, or "keep those waves and particles pouring in, folks!"

Jim Bedrick, Director of Systems Integration at Webcor Technologies, the IT services arm of San Francisco-based Webcor Builders, writes:
> "I'll gladly get on your bandwagon and support Building Information Modeling as a focus for further discussion—you've made a good case for it with sound logic, and I don't think further pecking at acronyms will be productive. Martyn Day's counterpoint misses two key issues:

"1) If we were simply trying to find 'a replacement term for CAD,' this would indeed be a valueless discussion. I agree that the term CAD 'encapsulates all professional design activities,' but it certainly does not cover construction project management, facilities maintenance and management, or real estate transaction information, to name only a few areas. Isn't the whole point here to find ways to create information that is of value throughout the entire life cycle of the building?

"2) If we wait to 'get 2D right before developing something else,' we will certainly miss huge opportunities for process improvement. We don't do 2D drawings because it's the best way to communicate, we do them because up until recently, we had to communicate on paper. In their seminal book Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Hammer and Champy propose that enterprises do not gain significant benefits from information technology by viewing it 'through the lens of their existing processes' but by 'asking How can we use technology to to allow us to do something that we are not already doing?'"

> In the seven or eight years that I've known Jim, he's been in charge of IT for a high-quality architectural firm, managed the technology processes for major corporate campus construction projects, and directed construction IT for one of the USA's most digitally progressive builders—in others words, as a designer, an owner and a constructor. These multiple roles lend Jim Bedrick's insights a unique depth and diversity that only enhances his credibility. Also very much in Jim's favor is the fact that he agrees with me .

Jim mentioned our irrepressible correspondent Martyn Day, who offered the following perspective in response to Autodesk on BIM and the supporting Autodesk BIM white paper (PDF):
> " Have you read Autodesk's White Paper on BIM? Funny how Bernstein starts CAD history in 1980s. The way I see it there are two good reasons for this:

"a) To further the myth that Autodesk actually invented CAD —nope I think not.

"b) If he'd started in the 70s he would have had to explain GDS, BDS RUCAPS, Sonata and other CAD tools that offer the so-called all new and great BIM functionality. These products became extinct because a dumb upstart called AutoCAD came along and copied users work processes better, pockets and 2D working habits better.

"Bernstein describes 'Object-oriented CAD', as being 'adopted by forward thinking firms'—just how far forward thinking? A couple of years it seems by Autodesk's decision to swap horses at Revision 3 of ADT [Architectural Desktop—JL] and buy Revit!! He then goes on to point out that these object-oriented CAD systems were optimised to do graphics and couldn't handle the non-graphical data very well, so something fundamentally different was needed. So just how forward thinking were the originators of these object-oriented CAD systems? Not very it would seem—it appears that for many ADT adopters/purchasers the lifecycle of the product will be shorter than their current project!

"I've been through the [Autodesk white] paper once and have over 1,000 words in notes—maybe the source for a 'black paper'

"In this whole debate, don't get me wrong and put me down as a technology Luddite. I think Modelling will have its place and to an extent already does—just visit Foster and Partners [UK architects—JL]. They model all their projects parametrically in MicroStation—no BIM, no ADT Objects, no Parametric Change Engine, no 'digital database', no flavoured version of MicroStation (while they have adopted TriForma, that appears to be a recent thing). The technology is there now and in action.

"However, I do think that the CAD developers' vision of what they think is going to happen and the way the customers actually choose to adopt it will be somewhere in-between. And therein lies the reality. This is where I'm planting my 'opinion flag' in this debate.

"Before the industry discusses the 'whys and the wherefores' of BIM, as if it's a foregone conclusion, there needs to be a discussion from actual users of design software on just what kind of solution the industry needs—What are the deliverables? What are the processes? Where are the bottlenecks? What causes errors and wastage? BIM is a nicely packaged piece of camouflage to obscure the fundamental issues that need to be discussed prior to specifying the computer science solution. We have to be careful that we are not throwing out one solution, at great expense, to implement another with just a different set of problems.

"Unfortunately, visions of future technology applications can be wrong [JL: Martyn offers a military hardware anecdote to illustrate the dangers of implicit design assumptions, which I've linked here]. BIM is an explicit statement of the software developer's implicit assumption. BIM needs to be quizzed, analysed, examined from all angles, and the developers have to provide hard proof for verification. Customers', analysts' and journalists' job is to give the tree a good shake before climbing up it.

"My Mum has a great saying—'There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots.'"

> Thank you, as always, Martyn, for your forthright opinions. Let me respond in reverse order:

> Yes, we all need to "shake the BIM tree" and test any assumptions that may fall out. That's really what I'd hoped for in launching this debate.

> Moving toward the expanded value creation/capture possible with BIM in the building/project lifecycle does not preclude (re-)consideration of existing CAD processes—including questions such as "What are the deliverables? What are the processes? Where are the bottlenecks? What causes errors and wastage?" The dialog led by end-users Ken Jensen and Volker Mueller across Issues Sixteen, Seventeen and Eighteen only serves to highlight how much clarification and refinement remains to be done regarding software support for early-phase design processes.

> As for nit-picking the Autodesk Revit white paper, I wouldn't lay all the blame for your "1,000 words in notes" at Phil Bernstein's doorstep. The current incarnation of that paper carries the spirit of Revit white papers from that product's previous life in the independent Revit Technology Corporation (RTC). As a privately held USA corporation, RTC was not held to the same standards of veracity as is a publicly owned company such as Autodesk. Consequently, some RTC pronuncamientos seemed to fly perilously close to a gray zone that I call revitas—which contains the same elements as veritas (the truth), just slightly scrambled. As a corporate entity, Autodesk adheres to the highest standards in its public statements, and I would be confident that any lingering ambiguities in the Revit white paper will soon be rectified.

> Re "furthering the myth that Autodesk actually invented CAD," we in the USA take this sort of hyperbole in the same spirit as "Al Gore actually inventing the Internet." Front runners and market leaders may be entitled to some extra leeway, especially when popularizing previously arcane subjects (such as BIM) to hitherto uninformed mass audiences (such as the AutoCAD customer base).

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